Barber: Hard Work Paying Dividends for Tigers

Sophomore forward Korvotney Barber discusses the Auburn basketball team and Saturday's showdown vs. No. 1 Florida.

Auburn, Ala.--As Auburn prepares to play college basketball's No. 1 ranked team for the first time since the 1995-96 season, sophomore forward Korvotney Barber says his unranked Tigers are making strides.

Auburn is the surprise early leader in the SEC West, even though the Tigers are just 3-3 in conference games. However, last season the Tigers won just four conference games so with 10 regular season games left Auburn has a chance on significantly improving on last year's total.

"It shows we have been working hard and have improved a lot from last year," Barber says of his team's 13-8 overall record and two victories in the last week over Top 25 teams. "It gives us a lot of confidence."

Last year the Tigers finished 12-16 as Barber averaged 6.8 points and 4.8 rebounds. This season "Vot" has improved his numbers to 12.0 points and 6.3 rebounds per contest. Auburn coach Jeff Lebo says the 6-7 sophomore's improvement has been a major reason the Tigers are an improving team.

On Saturday the Tigers have a major challenge as 18-2 Florida brings its No. 1 national ranking into Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum for a 4 p.m contest. Coach Billy Donovan's Gators are the SEC's only unbeaten team in league play at 5-0. Barber says there is excitement about the game on the Auburn campus vs. the defending NCAA champs.

"Everybody wants us to beat the No. 1 ranked team," the 6-7 forward says. "I think everybody is excited like we are."

Part of that excitement comes from Tuesday night's 81-57 victory over Alabama that snapped a seven-game losing streak to Tide teams. Florida comes to Auburn on Saturday for a regionally televised game on Fox Sports Net having won seven straight from the Tigers, including a 69-57 decision in Gainesville last season on UF"s march to the 2006 NCAA title.

Barber led the Tigers in scoring on Tuesday night with 18 points vs. Alabama.

Barber notes that Lebo told his Tigers to stay hungry and aggressive after Tuesday night's victory. "He told us to stay humble and continue to practice hard and play hard in the games and don't let it go to our heads," Barber notes.

The Tigers were particularly sharp on offense vs. Alabama. They shot well from the field and passed the ball well, something Lebo has been preaching to the team. "It is up to the players, really," Barber says of the doing the right things on the court to win games vs. strong opponents. "If we will be patient with the ball we get easy shots. When we start taking the first shot we get we starting going down with it. When we swing the ball and move it around we get easy, open shots. I think we are doing good by sharing the ball."

Playing as a team is something that the Gators do very well, Barber notes. "They share the ball and they are good team. They know how to run the floor like we do. They have good shooters and good inside presence. They are just an all-around good team."

The Gators will offer Barber and Auburn's other inside players a matchup challenge with 6-11, 232 Joakim Noah, 6-10, 245 Al Horford and 6-9, 185 Corey Brewer forming an imposing front line. All three can score, rebound, play defense and run the floor.

Barber says that the Tigers will try to use their speed to help negate Florida's height advantage. "(Playing fast) is part of our game because we are smaller and we use our speed to beat teams up and down the floor. We try to get the big men tired. That is really like our game plan for every team."

Saturday's game will be the seventh this season for Auburn vs. an opponent ranked in the Top 10. A victory over the Gators would greatly enhance Auburn's chances of making a postseason tournament, a goal for Barber and his teammates. "We have been thinking about that since the beginning of the season," he says. "We have been talking to everybody about everybody playing together like we have been doing and big things can happen for Auburn.

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